BERESHIT — Family tensions are easily created between siblings. Feeling overshadowed because of the accomplishments of our brother or sister, or feeling overlooked by parents, are frequent causes. How can we avoid these common family dilemmas? This week’s Torah portion, Bereshit, includes the story of Cain and Abel and man’s first violent act: a lashing out of brother against brother based on family tension, jealousy and perceived favoritism. When Cain is asked, after he killed Abel, where his brother is, he answers, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Torah is clearly teaching that the answer is definitely YES to Cain’s question. What can we do in our families to...Read More
ROSH HASHANAH — Rosh Hashanah is perceived as the Jewish New Year, but it is so much more than that. It is time to reflect on the quality of relationships with friends and family and compare yourself to the way you were a year ago. Rosh Hashanah, according to the tradition, gives you a time to make amends to family and friends. Use the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah to go through a process of introspection and evaluation with your family, thinking and talking about habitual problems and conflicts that are difficult to change. Seeing other family members,...Read More
KI TAVO — Many of us in this country have an overabundance of goodness in our lives. But sometimes in our society, with its saturation of goods and services, it is difficult to be aware of this abundance. If we have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes to wear, we already have more than many people in the world. Becoming aware of how much we have, we naturally begin to think about what it means to give back to this world from which we’ve so plentifully received. In this Torah portion we are required to take...Read More
SHOFTIM — Dr. Seuss introduced us to the children’s book The Lorax, his 1971 children’s book that was recently remade into feature-length film. The Lorax tells the story of how the environment is destroyed by human activity and ambition. We hear the unforgettable voice of the gruff but wise Lorax, who says to the greedy Onceler. “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!” Like the Lorax, we too learn to speak for the trees in this week’s Torah reading. Portion Shoftim includes the mitzvah to protect fruit trees from destruction. Trees should not be chopped down for the benefit of humans. This mitzvah...Read More
RE-EH — What are we willing to give to help those in need? Judaism’s word for giving, tzedakhah, translates most accurately as justice, not charity. This week’s Torah portion Re-eh offers some guidelines for giving in the Jewish tradition and introduces the idea of tithing. Tithing is giving 10 percent of your income in money, time, or products. Even though we are encouraged to be generous in our giving, the text indicates that we should not give more than 20 percent. The tradition is trying to model a balance between taking care of others and taking care of ourselves....Read More
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